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16.4.04

Bin Laden's Bargain

I've largely stopped doing posts about Iraq and terrorism (there are hundreds of people doing it better than me), but this caught my eye:

Bin Laden Tape Offering Europe A Truce Is Called Authentic

The C.I.A. said today that an audiotape of a man identifying himself as Osama bin Laden, who offered to stop terrorist actions in European countries that ended military action in Muslim nations, was probably authentic.

"After conducting a technical analysis, the C.I.A. assesses that the voice is likely that of Osama bin Laden," an agency official said.

The official described it as "an attempt by bin Laden to drive a wedge between Europe and the United States. This would fall into the category of other bin Laden tapes as a propaganda ploy to bolster morale of Al Qaeda's rank and file. "


The offer is meant to drive a wedge, but not between the US and Europe. It's to drive a wedge between the West and Muslims potentially sympathetic to al-Qaida.

The idea of this as a US-Europe wedge (similar to Saddam's grudging concessions on weapons inspections) assumes that Europe might accept the offer. Certainly many countries would like to reconsider their foreign policy in order to avoid angering Islamists. But they would not do so in the context of coming to an agreement with bin Laden. If anything, his making the offer will make them less likely to withdraw, because they won't want to seem like they're capitulating to terrorism. And I see no reason why anyone would trust al-Qaida -- they'd soon enough find a reason to implicate Europe in anti-Muslim activities. If he could reason that the people in the World Trade Center were guilty of crimes against Islam because of their association with the US, certainly he can find some way to blame Europe no matter what they do.

The offer, I think, was made on the assumption that Europe would turn it down. Now bin Laden can say "I offered to call off terrorism if Europe agreed to not attack Muslims. Europe said no. Therefore they're intent on attacking Muslims." This then provides a justification for his activities, and a proof to his sympathizers that the West is against them.

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